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As Britain leaves, English on rise in EU — to French horror (Politico)

Mis à jour : 8 Mai 2018

After Brexit, the use of English is likely to be even more common.

By Maïa de La Baume - 5/7/18, 4:00 AM CET - Updated 5/8/18, 10:16 AM CET - e-enactment of the battle of Waterloo, June 2015 | Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images

Brexit was supposed to be the French language’s chance at a comeback.

For a brief moment after the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, Francophones in Paris and Brussels allowed themselves to believe that French would regain its historical standing as Europe’s language of diplomacy.

Instead, perhaps paradoxically, the opposite is taking place. Once Britain leaves the EU, only two, relatively small, EU member countries — Ireland and Malta — will still list English as an official language (alongside Irish and Maltese). It would be everyone else’s second language and thus neutral territory. Officials from non-French speaking countries like Poland, Italy or the Czech Republic are particularly eager to see the global lingua franca become the primary means of communication in the EU.

“After Brexit, there’s a big temptation to make English the language of reference even more in the future,” said Sylvie Guillaume, a French Socialist MEP and one of the European Parliament’s vice presidents. “It worries me because I don’t really want us to end up speaking a language without subtlety on sensitive subjects.”

Even French President Emmanuel Macron acknowledged in a recent speech that Victor Hugo, the French writer, who “believed that French would be the language of Europe, would today perhaps be a little disappointed.”

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